Critics might say that Canada doesn’t have a true sense of identity; that it is over-saturated with American-isms and has nothing of it’s own that screams ‘Canada’. However you don’t have to look farther than some of the most amazing winter activities this season to see that Canada is unique and special. There are many things that define what Canada is, and these 12 outings might just be at the top of the list. Here are some of the most authentically Canadian things to do this winter.
Skate the Rideau Canal
Skating in the winter is a right of passage for every Canadian, and it doesn’t get much more epic than stepping out on the Rideau Canal. It’s free to glide along the 7.8 kilometers of the canal skateway, and you can bring your own skates or rent some there. The rink is usually open from January to early March, and hosts around 19,000 visitors a day.
Go Winter Diving
It might be very strange to think of scuba diving in the middle of winter, but avid divers know this is the best time of year to plunge into the waters off of Vancouver Island. In the summer, although the water is warmer, the visibility is murky due to plankton blooms. During the winter months the runoff and blooms are kept at bay, making it ideal to see the beautiful underwater world of the Pacific Ocean. However, you might just have to be a Canadian to last long in the frigid waters, even with a dry suit.
Sample Poutine in Montreal
One of the best ways to get the winter chill out of your bones is with a hearty stick-to-your-ribs kind of meal. There is nothing more Canadian than poutine, and there is no better time to sample some of the best versions than this winter. Montreal has some of the most amazing food, and La Banquise in the Plateau is a must visit with over 30 types of poutine. Better yet, it’s open 24 hours a day.
Look A Polar Bear In The Eye
Searching for a winter thrill like no other? Get up close and personal with the polar bears as they migrate through Churchill, Manitoba. This truly Canadian adventure brings you face to face with one of the world’s most beautiful predators. You can take tours out to see the bears, and even stay in a tundra lodge. Don’t be alarmed if you hear a gunshot – it’s just a way for the locals to scare the bears out of the towns so they don’t cause harm, or get harmed themselves.
Go Ice Fishing
It’s not just a Canadian cliche, ice fishing is a real and very traditional winter activity across the country. The feeling of walking out on a frozen pond, breaking through nature’s icy barrier, and getting a fish to eat is one of life’s simple pleasures. One of the most popular spots to drill a hole is Lake Simcoe in Ontario, where you can be transported by sleigh to an ice hut for a truly Canadian experience.
Ski From November to May
This year winter begins on December 21st and ends on March 21st, but it’s a pretty regular occurrence that the ski season up in Whistler extends beyond the actual calendar winter season. In fact, Whistler/Blackcomb had one of the longest ski seasons in all of North America! Talk about a destination, this epic mountain not only provides up to 6 months of powder, but also has an amazing village to explore for those who would rather shop, dine, or get pampered, than hit the slopes.
Sleep In An Ice Hotel
One of the most amazing temporary sites of a Canadian winter is the Hotel de Glace. This amazing structure made entirely of snow and ice is the only one of it’s kind on the whole continent. Guests can choose a themed suite, explore the great hall, get a drink from the ice bar, and check out the ice slide! The ice hotel is generally open from January to March, and is a sought after destination for people around the world.
Watch the World Pond Hockey Championships
It doesn’t get more Canadian than skating out onto a frozen pond for a game of shinny. Unless, of course, you are skating out to participate in the World Pond Hockey Championships that have been held in Plaster Rock, New Brunswick since 2002. This winter the event takes place from February 16th-19th 2017 and includes over 100 teams from around the globe. Around 20 rinks are set up on top of Roulston Lake for the championship. Thousands of visitors attend the series each year, and it is a must see for any true hockey fan.
Experience An Ice Castle
An ice castle is the stuff childhood dreams are made of, but at Lake Louise it is a crystal reality. Each year a castle is built on the lake and it’s free for visitors to skate around. If you want even more chilly art, the Ice Magic Festival alongside the lake features amazing ice carvings from artists around the world, and their creations are on display this year from January 19-29th. Each year has a different theme, and a team of carvers try their best to represent it in their work. Even if you can’t make it in January, you can still check out the sculptures if you are lucky, as they stay up for as long as weather allows.
Meet A Real Live Snowman
Every Canadian knows who Bonhomme is, even if they are not aware of his origin. The friendly snowman is the biggest celebrity at the world famous Winter Carnival in Quebec City, but he is not the only reason to go check out the festivities. Visitors to the carnival will experience nightly parades, dance parties, and even winter BBQ. This celebration happens from late January through early February yearly.
Become a Maple Syrup Connoisseur
Maple syrup doesn’t have to be seasonal. At Sugar Moon Farm in Nova Scotia you can delve into the sweet stuff all year round, and winter is the only time to authentically experience the Canadian delicacy sugar-on-snow. Learn about the history of maple syrup, how sap is collected, and see it turn to the finished product over a wood fire.
Watch the Aurora Borealis
One of the most spectacular sights in the world is the Aurora Borealis, or northern lights. Luckily for us Canadians, we have prime real estate for the show. The other-worldly glow is only visible from the northern hemisphere, and the further up you go in winter the longer darkness lasts, leaving you plenty of time to spot them. If you are looking for a brilliant place to watch this natural phenomenon, make your way to the Yukon, Northern Saskatchewan, of the Northwest Territories for a glimpse you will never forget.